TEMBO Taps inFORM to Distribute Database Modernization Tool
September 4, 2012 Alex Woodie
inFORM Decisions is the new master distributor of the Americas for TEMBO Technology Lab, the developer of database modernization tools for IBM i. inFORM is now taking the lead in marketing and selling TEMBO’s AO Foundation, a new tool that automates the task of migrating IBM i applications from the old ISAM database engine to the new SQL database engine, thereby reaping rewards in the areas of application performance and programmer productivity along the way.
Executives for inFORM Decisions and TEMBO met at the COMMON conference held at the Disneyland Hotel in May. inFORM Decisions president Dan Forster and his programmers listened as TEMBO founder and CEO Marinus Van Sandwyk laid out his vision for modernizing applications from the inside–at the database layer, as opposed to the more visible user interface layer.
The central theme for Van Sandwyk–an accomplished IBM i software architect with decades of experience on the platform–is that IBM i applications run faster and are easier to maintain when the legacy ISAM data access methods are replaced with newer SQL methods, when database validations are moved into the database as opposed to living in the application, and when the monolithic RPG code base is broken up and re-assembled into a three-tier application based on the model-view-controller (MVC) framework.
Few would argue with these assertions. The MVC framework is widely regarded as the proper way to architect an application. Nobody advocates for monolithic code bases. It has even been IBM doctrine for years that RPG apps should be constructed in this manner. Millions of programmers around the world are familiar with accessing databases via SQL. It’s quite obviously the way of the future (and has been for decades), but RPG programmers are familiar with doing things another way.
The hitch, of course, has been that migrating to the SQL (SQE) database engine is an invasive and expensive process. Van Sandwyk developed AO Foundation to automate as much of the migration as possible, and to lower the pain threshold by eliminating the requirement to have source code or to recompile the applications. (For more information on how AO Foundation works, see TEMBO Claims Non-Disruptive Migration of IBM i Apps to SQL Engine.)
Van Sandwyk’s COMMON presentation grabbed the attention of Forster, who is more used to dealing with document management issues than talking about overhauling RPG applications and changing how they talk to DB2/400.
“I just love the idea. I thought it was really exciting, and we just jumped all over it,” Forster tells IT Jungle. “Everybody that we talked to said, yeah this is pretty cool. If TEMBO can do what they say they can do, this has never been done before, in this way. My programmers are saying we should definitely take it for a test drive. They’re giving us the opportunity, so we’re grabbing it.”
inFORM Decisions is now TEMBO’s master distributor for the Americas. TEMBO, which is based in South Africa, is the process of selecting two more distributors to carry its products to the European and Asian markets.
Selling AO Foundation will be markedly different than selling document management software. Forster has hired industry veteran Alex Rodriguez to take the lead in business development around AO Foundation. Bill Rice, who like Rodriguez used to work for fellow Orange County, California, company Vision Solutions, will be helping to craft inFORM Decisions’ marketing strategy for AO Foundation.
“AO Foundation is definitely a leading-edge product,” Forster says. “We’ve been used to selling products where the market is already mature and there’s competition doing the same thing. This is something where there really isn’t competition. We not only have to sell the product, but we have to sell the concept. It’s education and marketing. So it’s a bit of a different marketing strategy.”
inFORM Decisions will get the word out about AO Foundation through a combination of advertising, webinars, white papers, and conferences. Forster says he just signed up for the upcoming Dev Con and RPG Summit conferences. “We’re going to hit pretty hard with this,” he says. “We’re going to these shows, and we’re only talking about AO Foundation. We’re not talking about document automation at these shows.”
Forster says he expects most AO Foundation deals to be made with larger companies that have a lot of old, custom-written code. This low-volume, high-revenue approach will involve software and services, and will have a much longer sales cycle than document management, where software is often installed and generating a positive ROI within a matter of months. inFORM Decisions is already working with one large U.S. company that is considering using AO Foundation to modernize its IBM i database access.
The idea that IBM i database access methods should be modernized is not yet mainstream, and inFORM Decisions and TEMBO would benefit from “awareness building” in that regard. DB2/400 has long been considered the solid core of the IBM i platform, and the 5250 green-screen interface as its greatest weakness. To now tell the IBM i marketplace that the native ISAM database engine is the real threat to long term success is a big shift in the narrative.
“It’s going to be a marketing challenge trying to find out what message resonates,” Forster says. “One of the things we realized in the partnership with TEMBO is this stuff needs to come first. You need to modernize the underlying code first and then put your facelift on it later.”
Van Sandwyk is quite skilled at explaining why the IBM i heritage is threatened by the ISAM database engine, and why the SQL engine represents a big step forward in presenting RPG programs with a modern, open database access layer. “You have the Ferrari of business servers, so why are you driving it like a jalopy?” he is known to say.
Nevertheless, the concepts surrounding database modernization can get quite complex and technical, and this could be am impediment to adoption. Forster realizes an AO Foundation deal will involve people with more technical expertise than sales of document automation software, where perhaps only the finance manager is involved.
“The technical people seem to understand what it’s about and seem to get it,” he says. “AO Foundation makes their system more relevant, it makes their careers more relevant. The option for these companies is getting off the platform, or staying on the platform. This is the crux. ‘Oh, this allows us to stay on the platform and continue to be relevant.'”